The world is changing.
I grew up in small town America, where the biggest thing to happen was the rare occasions the cows escaped the various fences and trucked it down the road. Wait, I stand corrected …
The most controversial event to occur during my stay in my small hometown was the time, junior year, my friends and I snuck a couple Smirnoff Ice bottles out, poured them into to-go cups, and stopped at the only gas station in a 20 mile radius for orange juice. The gas station attendant recognized us, go figure, and called the cops because she could “sense we were up to something.”
We rode around with the top down on my friend’s car, and when we pulled out of the country club neighborhood a cop was waiting for us. He pulled us over in one of two grocery stores in town. Blue lights- convertible top down – and four girls the whole town knew. I vaguely remember it being the summertime, but there must have been some sort of natural disaster warning because as it happened, every single person my mother knew and talked to just happened to be grocery shopping that particular evening. Imagine that.
Needless to say, when the cop discovered our Smirnoff Ice bottles, opened and poured them out onto the pavement, he did so in front of nearly the entire town of Pilot Mountain. … And before I got home, my mother was well aware of my antics.
Small towns mean whatever you do - you’re going to get caught. And while this doesn’t stop the majority of people in them from acting out, this was more than likely the worst thing I ever did … in high school.
Why am I writing about this painful high school memory? Or better question, what invited this memory of mine to resurface? Let me explain. I am, as usual, sitting in McAlister’s Deli. Now, if I’m not here I’m usually posted up in a coffee shop or a bookstore, but today I was hungry. So here I am, and yes I have been here for going on 3 hours writing another paper for class. I’m here so often, the guy who works here sat down across from me and asked me how that “Roland Barthes Thesis Paper” was going. I don’t have to tell you that they know me by name, and I don’t even have to order anymore.
I arrived today in the aftermath of the lunch crowd, and now I’m in the crosshairs of one dinner rush. For the most part I’ve been here in solitude, writing and reading away as I like it to be. But just now a family sat down in front of me. As a larger family they pulled together two tables and from where I’m sitting I can see all of them over the top of my laptop screen. This family includes: mom, dad, two brothers, two sisters, and what appears to be one female friend or girlfriend.
They are a sweet little family, and when they sat down I had the reoccurring pang of sadness; makes me miss my own large family. I love that it’s Saturday night and this family has chosen to make time to have dinner with each other, who does that anymore? I don’t – that’s for sure. My parents and baby sister may be a couple hours away and my brother even further, but my other sister lives right here in Charlotte and we never make time for each other. This needs to change.
But as I’m sitting here thinking about this I noticed the one daughter and friend huddled together at the corner of the table donning the infamous black X’s on their hands.
Now, don’t ask me why but this shocked me. Maybe because my high school years were spent in the middle of nowhere – or at least a long way away from places that enforce the black X’s on the hand. I remember those days like they were yesterday, those stupid black X’s that I had to scrub like no other the morning after being branded. But this is odd to me for two reasons …
1. Those days were definitely after I moved out of my parent’s house and away for college, and …
2. I always wanted those marks off immediately.
So I’m sitting behind this cute little family and I’m thinking, come on Mom – Dad do you guys know what those X’s mean? Your pretty little girls were hanging around some place that serves alcohol last night? Did they possibly drink? Or worse were older guys hitting on them?
I don’t know why this shocks me like it does, but for some reason I just don’t feel the black X and the family dinners mesh well together. But why do I care? It’s not like I didn’t play the Black X game, or carry Chap Stick on me at all times in case I needed to try to clean those X’s right off. And maybe, just maybe they were just at a concert last night. Maybe Mom and Dad were with them? Who knows, but what I do know is I must be getting older.
I think about my own baby sister, about to embark on her college years. And it scares the hell out of me. So Julie, if you’re reading please come somewhere in the Charlotte vicinity. Again, for two reasons …
1. I want you near me, I miss you. And …
2. I want to keep an eye on you